Recently, British and South African consumers were rocked by news of horse and donkey meat being found in their meat products. This sparked outrage amongst consumer groups who demanded to know which products had been found to be contaminated and inspired conversations about correct labelling of products. For many, mislabelling is paramount to fraud, and people want to know exactly what they are paying for.

Unfortunately, consumer rights violations are often not as widely and publically expressed as this was; all too often they go unnoticed by the public, the consumer having felt too powerless to speak up about it, we often forget how powerful we can be as consumers, that we can influence change by standing up for our rights.

World Consumer Rights Protection Day
Today, 15th March 2013, is World Consumer Rights Protection Day, first observed in 1962 when JFK said during a Congressional statement, “Consumers by definition include us all, they are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group... whose views are often not heard.” This year, Consumer International, and many other groups are urging consumers all over the world to take their power back.

13 March 2013 Barbie Mattel Action in Amsterdam

© Greenpeace / Gerard Til

Dubbed the year of “Consumer Justice Now!” this is our chance as consumers to take a stand and to enforce our rights for our consumer protection. 

Our Rights
If you don’t know what your rights are as a consumer, or how they can be protected, you might be surprised to learn where you have had the power to change something you disagreed with, without even knowing it! South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act (link) and the UN’s Guidelines on Consumer Protection Rights are worth a read on this topic. Last amended in 1999, these include a new section on sustainable consumption and production, consumer protection rights have started to reflect environmental concerns.

Consumers Making A Difference
Greenpeace has a history of consumer involvement, showing that your voices really can push companies to change their habits for the better – in 2011, you helped us get Barbie’s packaging company, Mattel, to dump their deforestation habits – we also exposed fast food giant KFC of the same crimes and support poured in from all around the world.

 

In 2012, with your help, we got major fashion brands including Levi’s to Detox their textile manufacturing supply chain. In just eight days, hundreds of thousands of people called on the brand to match its bold proclamations with real actions.

 

These are just a few examples of what consumers can do together - but there is still so much to be done!

Whether you spend today reading up and telling people about what you’ve learnt, or whether you will stand up for sustainable consumption, tweet us your ideas with the hashtag #WCRD and let’s stand up for our consumer rights!

For more information on how to use your consumer rights for sustainability, sign up to our consumer network here.